Share this content

CRM training’s most common calamities

19th Sep 2011
Share this content

It is widely acknowledged that CRM training is vital to ensure its adoption and success. So where are so many organisations going wrong?

The days of CRM failures being the norm may have long passed, but reports indicate that a disappointing number of CRM projects are still under-delivering.
For instance, a recent survey by the Institute of Sales & Marketing Management (ISMM), found that 77% of organisations in the UK now use a CRM system – but that of these some 40% are not satisfied with the results. Elsewhere, research from the National Computing Centre (NCC) reported that as many as one in three companies say their CRM rollouts have delivered only limited benefits.
But what the NCC study also concluded was that technology failings are unlikely to be the main reason for the high levels of dissatisfaction.
Indeed, when it comes to CRM projects, as we have been told time and again, it’s all about people, processes and technology. And if one of these foundations is weak, then the whole initiative will be undermined.
Of these factors, the ‘people’ element can so often be the fly in the ointment, says John Cheney, founder and CEO of
“CRM systems are implemented to help organisations improve the quality of service they provide to customers, streamline business processes and also improve the quality of management information,” he explains. “At the cornerstone of all of this are your staff. If your team doesn’t understand the benefits of the CRM system or don’t know how to use it, your CRM project will just fail – period.”
“Using a CRM system isn’t a straightforward process,” adds Samantha Kinstrey, managing director at 2e2 Training. “For example with something as isolated as Microsoft Word, anyone can start it up, write a document, save it, print it, and close it down. This gives users complete control of the process from start to finish, beginning, middle and an end. In the case of CRM, users may be involved in a beginning and perhaps middle, but not often an end and so forth. The involvement depends on the users function, the organisation and sometimes even the CRM system itself. There needs to be the right understanding for the individual user of their role in the CRM process and of the wider system as a whole.”
Training, says Kinstrey, is the only way to give employees this level of understanding – and without it, employees will lack the necessary understanding to ever make the CRM system perform well. This is unlikely to be heralded as an epiphany. But it does beg the question why CRM training is therefore so often undercooked.
A common problem?
Matt Garman, director at dhc, has seen the scenario unfold time and again. “All too often we see an organisation invest in a product first, then services to deliver the solution and then do not invest sufficiently in training staff towards the end of the project,” he explains. “The dangers of this are that things take longer than they need to because users are not necessarily sure where certain features or functions reside.”
Darron Walton, MD at De Villiers Walton, adds: “Most companies recognise that training is important however, project timelines are often too aggressive - or earlier project phases overrun to such an extent that training is squeezed either through lack of time, budget or both. At the end of a long project there is often an overwhelming desire to ‘just get it in’. The impact of this often manifests itself in one of two ways: the business users are very quiet – which probably means that they are not using the system or the help desk/service desk becomes swamped with ‘How do I?’ questions post go-live.”
Certainly time and money are two of the chief culprits for the shortfall in training according to many of the experts we spoke with.
“Cost control plays a key part in influencing organisations training decisions,” says Karen Ainley, commercial product manager for Sage’s Lower Mid Market Division. “CRM training not only extends the implementation project and therefore its associated costs, but also necessitates a significant investment of time from sales teams, who will often be reluctant to dedicate hours, even days, to training during valuable selling time! For that reason, it’s not uncommon for FD’s or primary budget holders – who, more often than not, will not use the system themselves – to take shortcuts when it comes to training staff from across the entire business.”
But, as Ainley emphasises, these shortcuts can ultimately prove costly in of themselves.
“The perception that CRM is so easy to use that you don’t need training is a fallacy. By dismissing the need for training in the hope that users will simply ‘learn on the job’ and adapt their way of working, companies really are limiting the software’s potential.”
So organisations cannot afford to give CRM training short shrift. But there are a whole host of other potential problems that can undermine training – and therefore undermine CRM effectiveness. A panel of experts have provided the following list of CRM training’s most common calamities, so that you know what to keep a keen eye on.

Letting the wrong people deliver the training

 “One of the most common mistakes is having training being delivered by trainers who do not understand the business, the processes or its people,” explains Walton. “It is important for a trainer to understand where the business and users are coming from and to be able to clearly articulate how the system benefits not only the user but the business as a whole. This points to the most effective end-user trainers being recruited from within the business rather than external service providers.”
Eric Stahl, senior director, product marketing EMEA at, adds:  “A common mistake made by in the CRM systems training process is in using inexperienced trainers. A working knowledge of the application alone is not enough to deliver effective training. Organisations must ensure the elected trainer is able to successfully hold users’ attention by running an interactive and dynamic training session; manage challenging students; focus on the benefits; deliver a concise guide to the main functions rather than covering features that won’t be relevant to users’ jobs.”

Training users on the product and not the business process

“Most CRM users are keen to understand how to get their job done and how the CRM system can help them achieve that. They really aren’t interested in all the features and functions,” says Cheney.
Walton agrees: “End-user training often focuses on functionality not process. People need to know how they are going to perform their job using the new system - anything else is just noise.”
Garman adds: “Training is delivered on departmental or team basis without any context as to how their input and use of the systems interact with the rest of the organisation. If you think of a CRM system specifically it is designed to provide a joined up and integrated system for the control of all incoming and outbound communication, therefore, in my opinion, everybody should at some stage be given a ‘top level’ overview of the system, why it is being used and what the impact and process flow is between users.”

Delivering ‘vanilla’ training on a bespoke solution

 “One of the most frequent mistakes made by growing and larger organisations is training users on a ‘vanilla system’,” says Ainley. “If a business trains on an ‘out of the box’ CRM solution that has not yet been tailored to their specific business requirements and processes, the system is likely to look and act completely differently when ‘go live’ comes round, which can render much of the early training redundant.”
Richard Boardman, founder of Mareeba CRM Consulting believes the problem can be particularly acute if the training is delivered by the vendor. “If the business gets the vendor who is supplying the software to do the training, probably the main issue you get is that the vendor will deliver fairly vanilla training that reflects the out-of-the-box product. Vendors aren’t terribly good at doing training in context of somebody’s specific customisations or specific business processes. So that tends to be what falls down there.”

Applying the wrong delivery model for the training

“Choosing the wrong delivery mode for training is another common mistake that organisations make,” says Stahl. “Many organisations opt for virtual training to save money but organisations should consider carefully the most effective delivery mode for their workforce, as ineffective training will be costly in the long run.”

Assuming that training is only required as a one-off to deliver expertise

“The problem with CRM systems, and indeed many major systems that are used widely throughout an organisation such as ERP software and even email, is that because they are used, everyone thinks they know how to use them,” says Kinstrey.”If when the software was first installed, everyone was given basic training on their particular function within the system, after a week or two of using it, they presume they are experts. It is important that those that use the system can become confident through gaining the right knowledge to do their job effectively and also that this knowledge comes from the right sources and is delivered ongoing.
“In the cases where there has been training at installation phase and none since, the risk is that employees can become complacent and this is especially true if the initial training was basic and specific to certain job functions. In both cases the knowledge that develops is inevitably that which users of the system have picked up themselves. However, with personnel changes, such knowledge is often not shared. This invariably leads to the risk of mistakes and not using the CRM system to its fullest potential. Training should not be a tick-in-the-box at the start when the CRM system is installed – it should be continual to ensure the system is delivering the ROI the business needs and expects

Underestimating the importance of CRM training

“CRM training is so overlooked is because managers and employees often don’t see the lack of training as the main problem with their CRM systems,” says Kinstrey. “If you asked managers why they’re CRM systems has been unsuccessful they would probably suggest things like inexperienced staff, a lack of understanding, the system not working, budget restraints and too much time spent fixing problems. If you asked a group of users the same question and they would be likely to suggest insufficient staff, insufficient system knowledge, impossible targets, a lack of customer understanding, and a lack of understanding what their role is.”
She concludes: “If you set aside the blame for a moment there seems to be a common thread to these types of problems; a shortfall of understanding, a knowledge-gap, underperformance, and fundamentally a lack of training.”

Replies (1)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

By jamesandrewbrown
19th Sep 2011 11:53

The problem in my opinion is that too many CRM software vendors tell customers that the software is plug and play and that they can get up and running themselves without the need to pay for implementation or training.

In reality customers who want a simple contact database can set a system up themselves and be very happy, However, for businesses who want to utilise the more complex functionality that CRM software systems provide today the results of implementations where there is no or limited training are poor. It's a false economy to cut back on proper configuration, handover and training - you only get one first impression from a systems users.

Another factor is that small business software systems can provide differant solutions to business problems and the CRM vendor is best placed to identify the best way for a particular client to use their system.

Thanks (0)